Last night saw Princeton dig itself another early hole when it went to the locker room at intermission with fewer than 20 points for the fourth time in five games. After scoring just 22 points in the game’s first 27 minutes, the home team found itself down 20.
The Tigers then shelved the stalling component of the offense, putting up a shot an average of 16.1 seconds into the shot clock the rest of the way. And for the second time this season, the offense clicked in this mode — to the tune of 25 points in the final 13 minutes. This begs the question: Has Joe Scott’s rigid offensive philosophy made his players gunshy, such that they are only effective when aggressively looking for good shots?
Meanwhile, Columbia flunked its first test of the season, giving up 47 first-half points to Wagner and dropping an 83-71 decision on Staten Island. The game wasn’t nearly as competitive as the final score indicated — Wagner was up 20 with just over three minutes left. Columbia’s John Baumann failed to score in double figures for the first time all season and Justin Armstrong had a rough shooting night (5-for-14). The only encouraging signs for the Lions were the continued strong play from Ben Nwachukwu and freshman sharpshooter K.J. Matsui’s 14 points off the bench. With Dalen Cuff out for a while, Joe Jones needs Matsui’s scoring touch from the perimeter.
The story of Brian Cusworth-less Harvard’s loss at BU was the play of freshman Evan Harris, who relieved Cusworth’s fill-in Brian Darcy as the game wore on. Harris provided a spark similar to what Princeton’s Harrison Schaen did as a freshman — high energy hustle plays and a strong presence on the boards. The athletic forward drew a number of fouls on his opponents and grabbed five offensive rebounds on the evening. Look for Harris to take over for Darcy in the starting lineup while Cusworth is out and to assume the role of top frontcourt reserve when the big man returns.
Penn (3-2) at #1 Duke (7-0) – 7:00 pm (ESPN2)
Penn picked an interesting way to leave the comforts of The Palestra for its first road game: traveling down to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face top-ranked Duke. A national television audience will get to see the 23-point underdogs almost certainly get served up as sacrificial lambs tonight on ESPN2. Probably the only way Penn keeps it close is if it starts hitting the outside shots and Fran Dunphy employs some sort of diamond- or box-and-one junk defense designed to shadow J.J. Redick and collapse on Shelden Williams in the middle, while leaving the other Duke players open to take as many three-pointers as they want. With DeMarcus Nelson out, the rest of the team is just 24 of 70 (34.3 percent) from the arc, so that’s not a bad strategy. But barring a miraculously close game, the best entertainment tonight may be trying to guess how quickly Steve Danley goes to the bench with his second foul.
Brown (1-4) at Holy Cross (3-4) – 8:30 pm
After a valiant comeback fell short against a tough Wagner squad last week, Brown is still looking for its second win of the season when it travels to Worcester for a late tip time tonight. The Bears have struggled offensively, and Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard’s teams are known for their defense. Brown’s best hope might be the free throw line. The Bears have done a good job of getting there this season and Holy Cross has had problems keeping opponents off the line. The Crusaders are coming off an overtime victory over woeful Fordham on Sunday that snapped a four-game skid. After scheduling four Ivy opponents in recent years, Holy Cross plays only Harvard and Brown this season. For the sake of somewhat meaningless common opponent comparison, the Crimson won 70-55 at the Hart Center back on November 22.